From Here to France: NSF and NASA Join Forces to Reach Overseas

Contributions to this article made by Brad Bishop, MCI, and Lawrence Landweber, University of Wisconsin. 31 October 1988.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have joined forces to provide an international data communications link to France that is accessed through NSFNET.

This overseas connection, which uses an International Satellite Link provided by MCI, joins Princeton University and the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et Automatique (INRIA), making possible access to SIMBAD, an astronomy database.

This database, more formally the Set of Identifications, Measurements and Bibliography of Astronomical Data or SIMBAD, runs on a host machine located near Paris and contains nearly all known references to celestial objects dating back to 1950.

Through this database, a researcher can obtain bibliographic citations relating to a specific star or other object by name or reference number, as well as general statistics about it. A small staff keeps SIMBAD up to date by entering references from astronomical and other scientific journals published throughout the world.

The link between the U.S. and France has been tested during demonstrations several times throughout the summer, including at a meeting of the Library and Information Services Association in late July and during the International Astronomical Union's General Assembly in early August. MCI also demonstrated the database at its Executive Communication Seminar in early October. Beginning later this year, the international link will be maintained permanently for use by NSF and NASA scientific communities.

Presently, the link provides a connection from the NSFNET to an application level gateway at INRIA. This gateway converts Telnet, the Internet terminal-to-host protocol, to the XXX protocols used for this purpose in Europe, thereby allowing scientists in the United States to log in to a machine in France which provides the SIMBAD service.

In the future, the link will also be used to connect the NSFNET to French networks utilizing the Internet protocols. Experiments with a gateway between the OSI connection-oriented network layer, which will be used in Europe, and the OSI connectionless network layer to be used in the U.S. will be conducted via this link.

MCI's continuing commitment to NSFNET includes exploring the potential for other innovative data communication links required by the scientific and research communities. By making NSFNET and related activities an executive level project within MCI, such research needs are given high priority by the company.

The project is funded by the NSF and NASA in the U.S. and by INRIA in France. It is being directed by Lawrence Landweber of the University of Wisconsin and Christian Huitema of INRIA.


Taken from the Link Letter,  Vol. 1 No. 11, 31 October 1988